First meeting ad hoc committee Integrity: Code of Conduct suddenly a priority for parliamentarians

POSTED: 03/16/15 1:08 PM

St. Maarten – Thirteen years after former Lt. governor Franklyn Richards proposed it for the first time to the Island Council, the ad hoc committee Integrity of parliament met yesterday and named establishing a Code of Conduct for parliament a priority.

“I believe it is a priority for parliament to have a Code of Conduct,” committee-chairman Cornelius de Weever said.

The committee’s meeting was off to what felt like a reluctant start – the objective of this first meeting being to set the perimeters for the committee’s activities and responsibilities. Requests for committee-members to take the floor were followed by awkward moments of silence, before one of them finally jumped in.

Dr. Lloyd Richardson was the first one to address some issues. He wondered whether the committee should regulate the behavior of parliamentarians and if so – which disciplinary measures ought to be established. ”Will there be verbal decisions without recourse, or should there be consequences for infractions?’ he said.

Richardson furthermore wondered to whom infractions would be reported. “Or will this remain an internal matter?”

Richardson remarked that training for those who want to come into office – in other words, candidates during an election – ought to get training first and undergo a screening. “We would be remiss if we don’t tackle screening before someone comes into office. Otherwise we run the risk of having to go through undesirable procedures.”

Once the meeting got underway, it became clear that recommendations from the three integrity reports (Wit, PricewaterhouseCoopers and General Audit Chamber) function as guidelines.

Among these recommendations are integrity assessments of parliament. “That would get us to the meat of the matter,” MP Sarah Wescot-Williams said. “Where are we today as far as integrity in parliament is concerned? That is what an assessment would tell us. It would also indicate what we should be working on.” Wescot-Williams considers such an assessment as a baseline study.

However the General Audit Chamber published last year already its Baseline Study Institutional Integrity Management. “That could function as our baseline,” Chairman De Weever said, adding nevertheless that the committee would recommend executing an integrity assessment to parliament. Nobody objected.

De Weever presented the committee members with a copy of the code of conduct for the parliament of the United Kingdom. The committee did not really want to discuss this document on such short notice. “We read it and then what?” National Alliance MP William Marlin said. “Discuss it?”

MPs Leona Marlin-Romeo and Silveria Jacobs suggested that all members come up with proposals for ways to tackle the integrity issue.

Wescot-Williams considered the example “an important document” but said she would need more time to study it. She agreed however with Chairman De Weever that a code of conduct is “a priority for the committee.”

Towards the end of the meeting, that lasted less than an hour, UP-MP Maurice Lake suggested to hold the next meeting behind closed doors, but that idea was nixed by Wescot-Williams: “I see no need for a closed-door meeting. The people have the right to hear us.”

The committee will meet again in two weeks, around March 24.

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